An often neglected, and forgotten task. Changing a caravan tyre! If you are unfortunate enough to suffer a flat tyre, can you cope?! (And we don’t mean cheating by calling the AA!) Provided you have the right equipment and knowledge you won’t have a problem.
TOP TIP: Make sure you practice jacking up you caravan at home, at your own pace. Then should the worst come to the worst and you need to change a wheel in anger, you will know what you are doing.
The Jack! - Whatever type of jack you choose, it must be capable of being fitted under the proper lifting point determined by the caravan manufacturer. You can find this information in your caravan handbook! Remember that this lifting point will be some 3 or 4 inches closer to the ground if a tyre is flat, so make an allowance for this. Also, any jack with a small base area will need a support board beneath it if being used on soft ground, so make allowance for the thickness of the board. "Scissors" type jacks often appear to offer the advantage of a low retracted height, but it must be remembered that they are not capable of exerting any upward force when fully closed. They must be opened to a minimum height before they can lift, so make sure that this height is within the clearance available.
Wheel Chocks - Caravan handbrakes cannot be relied upon to work in reverse. This is because of the design of the automatic reversing mechanism, which prevents the overrun braking system operating when reversing. As a result, if the caravan is unhitched from the towing vehicle whilst the rig is facing uphill, the caravan may (and probably will) run away backwards. Most designs provide a technique to override this situation, but many owners do not seem to master the technique, and only discover this when it is too late. A selection of blocks or boards for placing under the wheels - Whilst we all endeavour to find the most level site, there are times when such a thing does not exist. If we want the cooking pots to be level, and we don't want to be rolling out of bed all night long, then the caravan must be levelled properly. Although there are proprietary devices available for this, many of us use blocks or boards under the wheels to achieve a level position. A hessian backed wool carpet square (2' x 2') is a very useful thing to have for many purposes. A spare wheel - Often missing when you purchase a caravan. Make sure that it is inflated to the correct pressure!
A wheel brace - Removing wheel nuts can be more difficult on some caravans due to the body panels often getting in the way. A wheel wrench with a telescopic extending handle makes cracking the nuts much easier, with less chance of grazed knuckles! If the nuts are tight please remember there are dangers involved in standing on the brace handle. Be careful! Chances of a tyre blowout can be reduced by the simple expedient of ensuring that the tyres, and particularly the tyre walls are regularly inspected for signs of deterioration. The tell-tale signs of long cracks in the rubber mean that the tyres need replacing. These cracks show up when the tyre is correctly inflated and are often worse on the opposite side of the tyre.
TOP TIP: When practising these techniques, as the wheel is removed, use the opportunity to check thoroughly both sides of the tyres. Punctures are usually a matter of bad luck, when a piece of debris enters the tyre tread. As you have always suspected, the chances of this happening are greater in the rain! The reason appears to be quite simple. Water is a good lubricant for rubber, and a piece of debris which would have difficulty penetrating a dry tyre will more easily penetrate a wet one.
The Technique - So we now find ourselves at the roadside with the task of changing a wheel. Make sure that you have stopped in a safe place, switch on the hazard warning lights, and place a warning triangle some good distance behind you. If possible, pull well off the road, especially if the punctured tyre is on the right hand side. Apply the car hand brake and the caravan parking brake. If you are stopped on an incline chock the wheels of the car to prevent it rolling away - do not put faith in handbrakes alone. It is important to keep the caravan hitched to the towing vehicle whenever it is being jacked. See below under Levelling, for the reason for this. Remove your spare wheel from its stowage and check that it is inflated to the correct pressure. If your spare is kept in a carrier beneath the chassis, this may cause you some problems. Firstly, this arrangement discourages regular checking of the tyre pressure, and secondly, if the flat tyre is on the nearside (the left side of the caravan), then you will need considerable room at the left of the caravan in order to slide the carrier out. If you are forced to stop near an embankment or high kerb you could have problems in sliding the carrier out far enough. In addition, the fact that the tyre is deflated will mean that the caravan is leaning to that side and the carrier will be pointing towards the ground. It may not complete its travel before hitting the ground - and your knuckles. This will mean that you will have to jack the caravan first. If you are using a metal jack take care that you do not dislodge it while tugging at the carrier.
Removing and replacing the wheel - Remove the wheel trim/cover and loosen all of the wheel nuts. On some caravans this may require that you jack the caravan first to allow the axle to drop sufficiently to allow access to the trim or nuts. Refer to your handbook for the correct jacking point. This is usually a strengthened plate near the axle beam, or the axle beam itself. Either way, positioning the jack will mean reaching underneath to position it and adjust it to take the weight of the caravan. Before jacking the wheel off the ground, slacken all of the wheel nuts. When the wheel is sufficiently clear of the ground, stop the jacking procedure and remove the wheel nuts. Put on the spare wheel and replace the nuts, tightening them as much as is practicable. Lower the caravan and remove the jack. Tighten the wheel nuts to the correct torque. If you are using an extending wheel nut wrench, then make sure you use it with the handle retracted, otherwise you will apply too much torque to the nuts, which could damage the threads. If the tyre came off the rim after deflation, check around the brake mechanism for any signs of damage caused by the wayward tyre.
While stopped on a dual carriageway or Motorway, you will be passed by heavy lorries. As they pass, they will cause the caravan to rock violently. This is often enough to allow a metal jack to be dislodged, causing the caravan to fall. To ensure this does not happen, it is wise to place an axle stand beneath the axle for safety.At no stage in the jacking procedure should it be necessary to use the corner steadies. These devices are intended only for preventing rocking movements of the caravan as the occupants move about. They are not designed to lift the weight of the caravan and chassis, and could be seriously damaged if they are used for this purpose.
Now the wheel change is complete, stow the damaged wheel/tyre away together with the jack and brace. Remove the chocks from the wheels and release the caravan handbrake. You are now ready to continue your journey! TOP TIP:At the earliest opportunity, call at a garage or tyre service centre to have your tyre repaired. You would not be the first to suffer two punctures on one journey!